The Department of Metal Physics forms a new generation of researchers

For several years in a row, the Department of Metal Physics of the Faculty of Engineering and Physics has become a leader among university departments according to the results of international activities. This is evidenced not only by the indicators of its rating, but also by statistics. For example, in 2018, students, graduate students, faculty, and staff members went on foreign secondments 15 times in Germany, Japan, France, Norway, the Czech Republic, and the United Kingdom. But the department was visited by 7 colleagues from Germany, China, Israel and South Korea. The Department of Metal Physics also has cooperation agreements with 13 foreign universities and partner laboratories. However, the most important thing is that its foreign partners circle is constantly expanding, and more and more of its educatees are joining the opportunities provided for students and researchers by integration into the international scientific and educational environment. So, what is behind the dry figures, and how the department’s staff manages to attract more and more people to international activities, we spoke with the deputy head of the department, Professor Svitlana Mykhailivna Voloshko, and the department’s associate professor, responsible for this area of work, Lesia Yuriivna Demchenko.

– It is clear that the lines of reports and high positions in the rankings are the systematic work of the department staff. And the work is meaningful, which is based on certain principles and vision of the most promising directions. So, what are these principles, and how do you determine the priorities of the international activities of the department?

– The position of the department is that in the conditions of reforming domestic education, especially technical education, it is necessary to develop international contacts as much as possible, to attract students, undergraduates and graduate students to participate in international conferences, in “exchange education” programs, in the search for foreign grants for participation in internships and the implementation of certain research projects etc. And this is not just a declaration: the staff of the department persistently implements the ideas of education internationalization in life. That is why the department scientists already cooperate with scientists of 16 foreign universities – Chemnitz University of Technology, Augsburg and Münster universities (Germany); Uppsala University (Sweden); Tokyo University and Tokai University (Japan); Zhejiang and Huizhou Universities (PRC); Warsaw, Wroclaw, Opole, Poznań and Silesian Polytechnics (Poland); Debrecen University (Hungary); Athens Technical University (Greece); “OVIDIUS” Technical University (Romania), SPring-8 synchrotron center (Japan).

By the way, it was our department, the first in Ukraine, that began to lead the way to the Japanese synchrotron center of the third generation SPring-8. Not only recognized scientists went to work there, but also researchers who have just started their journey in science. Therefore, the postgraduate student Andriy Orlov, who has repeatedly visited the Center as an intern, is preparing his dissertation for completing, and now a graduate student Ivan Kruglov is working in Japan. It is worth noting that working in SPring-8 allows you to get unique data using synchrotron radiation – those that it are simply impossible to get somewhere else.

– However, one should go there with his own research program, isn’t it?

– We work within a specific project. It is devoted to the visualization of the processes of structural and phase convertions in the surface layers of nanolayered metal compositions. This topic, by the way, was suggested by our head of the department, Serhiy Sydorenko. For its implementation, the Japanese side financed the purchase of additional equipment. It is, to tell the truth, still working in Japan, but we are currently negotiating its transfer to Kyiv. Therefore, in the future, this equipment will be installed in our department. In addition, the Japanese partners pay the cost of travel and accommodation of our representatives. So, today Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute is the only Ukrainian scientific and educational organization that has a cooperation agreement with SPring-8.

– But do you have joint projects not only with SPring-8?

–  Of course. Only in 2016-2018 international projects of the department scientific school started with the Huizhou University, PRC (the project is dedicated to computer calculations of relaxation processes in the structures of “graphene single crystal Fe, Ti, etc.”); German Research Society DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) (The project is devoted to the development of film structures "BCC ferromagnetic metal - FCC non-ferromagnetic metal" to create memory elements with ultra-high information recording density - up to 1 Tb/inch²) and others. In general, the department conducts joint scientific researches with foreign organizations and participates in the implementation of joint research projects and grant programs in 14 topics.Produced, including the materials of these studies, the publication of our scientists in international journals with high impact factor, patents and copyright certificates, reports at international conferences of the European and world levels are of great interest in the international scientific space.

–  How actively young researchers and students are involved in cooperation with foreign colleagues?

–  This is a very important component of development conception of international relations of the department. One of the implementation tools is the direction of undergraduates and graduate students of the Department of Metal Physics for a scientific internship abroad, the realization of experiments planned in dissertations at the research base of foreign partner universities. Over the last 5 years, undergraduates, graduate students and young scientists of the Department of Metal Physics have won more than 40 grants for scientific internships and exchange education in Sweden, Hungary, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Greece, China, Germany, Norway; prizes at the International Olympiad on Materials Science of the CIS countries; Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine scholarships for young scientists; first places in the competitions of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine for the best scientific work among students and young scientists in the field of materials science. In this work is also important that our foreign partners provide financial support and grants for our undergraduates and graduate students to do some of their dissertations on their base. In a state of lack of necessary material base for such experiments in Ukraine, our students and graduate students carry out the experimental part of their research on the basis of world leading universities and laboratories. That is, they do the experimental part there, and complete  here in Kyiv. Therefore, young researchers do not only qualification work, but also do real science. This policy is a good example of the fact that when we remove the student’s psychological barriers before participating in foreign projects, recommend him, help him with preparing documents for participating in competitions for receiving relevant grants, it is more likely that the department students will have the opportunity to join the modern researches in leading scientific centers of the world.

–  To participate in such projects, you should speak foreign languages ​​at a very decent level, first of all, of course, in English, which is a problem for many. How do you solve this problem?

–  In 2008, the Department of Metal Physics proposed a new concept for the preparation of metallophysics in the English language. It is based not only on classroom language learning, but also on creating opportunities for students to acquire practical skills in international scientific activities and assist in organizing their practical work in the global academic English-speaking environment. In this sphere we were the first among all departments of the university. So, our students are taught to work in international information networks with databases and with English-speaking information resources, to prepare application documents for participation in competitions for international projects, grants, scholarships, exchange education, participation in international conferences. For many students the result of this for is their immersion in the environment of practical international scientific activities, one of the essential components of which is the knowledge of English. Therefore, the concept contributes to the timely implementation of planned research experiments and, accordingly, successful preparation for the defence of graduate students' dissertations, as well as entering – in the future –  joint international projects with scientists from partner universities.

I can not help but notice that the idea of ​​this pilot project is enshrined in the copyright certificate of Ukraine No. 25765 of September 23, 2008 “The concept of teaching English students of the specialty “Physical Materials Science” of the Department of Metal Physics at the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Politechnic Institute”.

To sum up, I note that we must help our young scientists to knock on the doors of leading foreign scientific institutions more boldly. It is necessary to form a new generation of researchers and teachers who will practice the European principles, global thinking, and who will no longer live as before –  neither in the educational, nor in the scientific, nor in the mental dimensions.